The basketball community in Ireland has been following with interest the announcement surrounding another major sports body, which has benefited from a funding agreement in recent days to allow it time and resources to recover from financial difficulties.
While they wish those involved in that sport the very best in navigating their way through what will undoubtedly be a difficult few years to come, the Board wishes to express the frustration of many basketball enthusiasts in their 300,000+ strong community, as it would appear that double standards may be at play for sports that fall outside what are considered the popular sports.
In 2008, when Basketball Ireland ran into financial difficulties, the sport found itself with an unexpected black hole of debt and financial penalties totalling €1.5 million.
At their darkest time, a similar agreement to that which was awarded last week would have considerably changed the trajectory of Basketball Ireland, and would have proven to be a lifeline.
Instead, the organisation entered a difficult period with no financial assistance and was forced to:
• Call an immediate halt to their international team programmes, thus damaging the career prospects of a large number of underage players.
• Make half of their employees redundant.
• Reduce the debt through putting a levy on their own members.
• Basketball Ireland was deemed ineligible for the Capital Sports Programme for five years until the above had been achieved.
• The Government imposed a significant fine, which served to worsen their financial position.
• A significant grant, which had been approved for the refurbishment of the National Basketball Arena, was abruptly withdrawn and never reinstated.
Since then, Basketball Ireland has turned its position around completely while receiving no financial help, but plenty of plaudits.
A quick overview of basketball today:
• Basketball Ireland re-instated all international programmes thanks to fantastic support from parents and members across the country, who continue to help part-fund these squads.
• Basketball Ireland now has an estimated 300,000 strong basketball community.
• The sport has grown by 60% in the past five years, and is continuing to flourish year on year.
• They have almost a 50-50-gender participation split.
• They have established a clear pathway for the future generation of players with the introduction of their Regional and Provincial Academies, which help to put players from as young as Under 14 on a clear pathway to the elite level of their sport.
• The National Leagues continue to grow year on year, with new clubs joining every season.
• At secondary school level, they continue to be one of the most popular sports in the country with over 860 post primary schools involved in competitions.
• At primary school level, the recently released “Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study” showed that participation in basketball for this age group has doubled since 2009, and basketball is in the top three of the most participated sports for children of this age.
• According to that report, basketball also ranked as the number one sport for content covered in PE classes.